Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some of the flavor of The Rise of American Democracy by Sean Wilentz

Here is the author summarizing a northern Republican looking back over the 1850s from just before the Civil War.

(Page 705):

As Seward remarked, the events of the mid-1850s threw into sharp relief how two different democracies, shaped by slavery, had arisen within the same nation. Although some southern franchises and systems representation were, in fact, more equal than others, slaveholders, normally wealthy slaveholders, held a commanding power in the courts and legislatures throughout the South. By contrast, power was more dispersed and most of the North, where ordinary farmers and even wage earners not only voted but also held state offices. Southern politics could brook no criticism of slavery for fear of destabilizing the system; northerners were free to write and say whatever they wanted to about any political subject. In Kansas, upholders of southern- style popular sovereignty had flagrantly rigged elections, violently seized control of polling places, and turned democracy into a mockery – and had gained federal sanction from a doughface Democrat bullied into compliance by Slave Power congressmen and cabinet members. When an elected northern Republican had the temerity to call the bullies to account, one of them cut him down and beat him mercilessly on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

No comments:

Post a Comment